Friday, August 19, 2011

Famine in East Africa: Who Cares?

Several Christian NGOs are on the move, provided they can get the appropriate funds.

More than 12 million people are at risk of starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and other parts of East Africa, equivalent to the population of Ohio or Florida. Hundreds of thousands refugees have fled the drought-stricken region, and in the past three months, nearly 30,000 children have died. Yet the crisis has raised little attention in America. Private relief agencies are facing record low donations. The federal government is cutting its budget for humanitarian aid. And few Americans report even paying attention to the disaster.

Even though the need is great, some relief organizations are finding it difficult to raise the funds needed to assist the area. Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, said the Southern Baptist international relief fund is operating with just enough funds for six months. Contributions from Southern Baptist churches to the fund in 2010 were the lowest in 20 years, with the fund receiving only 40 percent of what it did just a year earlier.

"We are now at a 'red alert' time for our human needs funding," Palmer said. "These projects help the poorest of the poor, the most neglected and marginalized and some of the most lost people groups in the world. We are approaching a baseline where we are going to have to start denying funds to critical projects."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. is sending $122 million to the region, bringing the total U.S. assistance to the region to more than $580 million to help with food distribution, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, and security. Overall, around 4.6 million people are assisted through U.S. funds.

"What is happening in the Horn of Africa is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today, and the worst that East Africa has seen in several decades," Clinton said last week at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

USAID recommends that those who would like to help the victims of the famine should contribute directly to one of the relief organizations already working in the region. To read more, click here.

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